After nearly two weeks of testimony, the defense and prosecution rested Tuesday in the murder trial of a Blythe man accused in the death of his roommate’s 18-month-old son almost five years ago.
Jordan Bracamonte, 25, could face a life sentence if found guilty of causing the death of the toddler by allegedly intentionally letting go of the boy’s hand while walking him up a flight of stairs, causing the child to tumble onto his head and later die due to his injuries.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Otis Sterling instructed jurors to return to the Larson Justice Center in Indio on Thursday for closing arguments.
Bracamonte is charged with first-degree murder and assault on child under 8 resulting in death, with a sentencing enhancement allegation of inflicting great bodily injury.
Bracamonte was arrested on April 29, 2015, following an investigation by Blythe police that began a day earlier when the youngster was brought by his father to Palo Verde Hospital unconscious and in critical condition.
In her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Brijida Rodarte said Bracamonte told Blythe police he was babysitting Mario Perez Jr. in a two-story apartment he shared with his then-wife and the boy’s father when the child spilled food on himself. The defendant decided to take Mario to a second-floor bathroom to clean the child, according to the prosecutor, who alleged that on their way up the stairs, a frustrated Bracamonte let go of the boy’s hand, causing him to fall and suffer fatal injuries.
The prosecutor said Bracamonte initially denied during about two hours of questioning by police that he had released the boy’s hand, but later admitted that he did.
Bracamonte’s attorney, Richard Verlato, conceded that his client let go of the boy’s hand, but said the defendant never intended for the child to fall and suffer severe injuries.
“This was not assault. This was not murder,” Verlato said in his opening statement. “Ultimately, is Jordan responsible for the injury? Yes, he’s admitted that now. He did not intend to kill the child. He did not intend for the child to become seriously injured.”
In an earlier court filing, the public defender wrote that Bracamonte “thought the child would just fall on his behind.”
Three hours after the boy fell, Bracamonte and Mario’s father drove the child to the hospital. The boy was then airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where he was on life support until his death on May 1, 2015, which a medical examiner later ruled was the result of blunt force trauma.
Rodarte said a medical examination showed the toddler suffered multiple bruises to the face, indicating child abuse. But Verlato said those injuries stemmed from a minor bathtub fall the boy had on April 27, 2015, unrelated to the stair fall the next day.
“Those minor bruises had nothing to do with (the infant’s) death,” Verlato told the jury.
As jury selection was getting underway in the trial in the last week of January, Bracamonte pleaded guilty to four counts of spousal abuse and one count each of criminal threats and false imprisonment involving his ex-wife. He entered the plea after the judge denied a motion by Verlato to have his client tried separately on the murder and spousal abuse-related charges.
Verlato argued that evidence specifically related to the spousal abuse-related allegations could sway jurors to convict his client on the murder charge.
Bracamonte is being held at the Indio jail in lieu of $10 million bail.